A photograph of a small car parked in front of a large concrete structure with a narrow blind arcade.
Avon Crescent Substation, Bristol, applies classical architectural treatment to a modern new material, concrete. © Historic England Archive
Avon Crescent Substation, Bristol, applies classical architectural treatment to a modern new material, concrete. © Historic England Archive

Early Electricity Substation in Bristol is Listed

An unusual example of an early municipal electricity building is listed at Grade II following Historic England's review of historic structures and buildings in Cumberland Basin.

On the advice of Historic England, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has listed an early electricity substation and agreed a number of updates and amendments to existing list entries for sites in the area, strengthening their protection.

Historic England carried out the independent review of the buildings and structures in the western end of the Floating Harbour for Bristol City Council, to help shape the future development of the area and the preparation of the Western Harbour masterplan.

Avon Crescent Substation (Grade II)

A former electricity powerhouse has been listed at Grade II.

It was built in 1905-1906 to the designs of L G Mouchel of the Hennebique Concrete Company to provide power to the City Docks. Electrical power was still in its infancy in the early 20th century, though its use for street lighting was well established, and its use in industry was gathering pace.

Substations were a new building type, and very few survive from the first years of the 20th century. Only one listed example pre-dates the Avon Crescent building: Heaton Moor, Stockport, dating to 1902.

The Avon Crescent substation has been listed as one of the earliest examples in England of the technologically-innovative and highly influential Hennebique system of reinforced concrete construction. It is a rare example of the building type dating from an early period of municipal electricity supply.

Our review has helped to uncover what’s special about this historic part of the city, to help shape its future. It confirms the importance of Cumberland Basin as a brilliantly engineered water management system, built and adapted to respond to the rapid growth of international trade in the 19th century. It’s an important place in Bristol’s story and in our national story.

Rebecca Barrett, Regional Director Historic England

Brunel’s Swing Bridge alongside North Entrance Lock (Grade II*)

The pioneering structure also known as 'Brunel’s Other Bridge' remains listed at Grade II*. Originally listed in 1972 with a very brief description, the review has provided the opportunity to extend the list description to include greater detail about the structure’s architectural and historic interest.

The swing bridge was an innovative design that used new technology to serve the specific requirements of Brunel's South Entrance Lock. Brunel intended to span the lock with a retractable rolling bridge, but instead he designed an innovative wrought-iron swing bridge.

Nicknamed the 'Swivel Bridge' by his staff, it was completed in the autumn of 1850. It was successfully relocated to its current position across a new North Entrance Lock in around 1873 through skilled engineering makes it an example of a high quality of adaptation to the evolving waterway structures at Cumberland Basin. It was decommissioned in 1968.

I welcome the results of Historic England’s review of the buildings and structures in Cumberland Basin. The revised listings highlight the number of iconic features within this area of Bristol, such as the numerous swing bridges including Junction Lock and Brunel’s Swing Bridge, which have historical and architectural importance, and in their listed status will continue to celebrate the city’s heritage. The new listing of Avon Crescent substation is great to see. Built in the early 1900s to provide electricity to operate the docks, this building is recognised as one of the last surviving from this time and of its unique style.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol

Swing Bridges over Entrance Locks and Brunel's South Entrance Lock (Grade II*)

Brunel’s South Entrance Lock and the Swing Bridge over Brunel’s South Entrance Lock were first separately listed at Grade II in 1972 and amended to Grade II* in 1994. They are now a single 'Brunel's south entrance lock and swing bridge' entry with greater detail about their historic and architectural importance.

The South Entrance Lock of 1844 to 1849 was the first alteration to Jessop’s 1809 Cumberland Basin. It reflects Brunel’s pioneering wrought-iron caisson lock design with single-leaf gates to maximise the operating length. The bridge over the lock, formerly a swing bridge, is a replica of the bridge now at the North Entrance Lock, constructed in 1875.

Some minor associated features are also now included in this amended listing, including a mid-19th century capstan and a late-19th century gas lamp standard, which help illustrate the evolving technology and character of the lockside.

The review has allowed us to rationalise the existing historic designations in the area and to recommend the listing of the substation. We’ve revised and expanded the list entries to reflect our current knowledge about the structures, and to clearly express what’s special about them. This helps inform and guide appropriate change.

Simon Wardle, Listing Team Leader Historic England

Cumberland Basin walls and associated features including Junction Lock swing bridge (Grade II)

Situated at the west end of the Floating Harbour, these two structures were originally separately listed.

South Junction Lock (also known as Jessop’s Lock) was listed at Grade II in 1972, and the Quay Walls and Bollards, also at Grade II, in 1977.

As part of the review they have been brought together in a single 'Cumberland Basin walls and associated features' entry with a revised description and map which better reflects our current understanding of the structures.

The new listing includes the basin and lock structures reflecting the evolution of this part of Cumberland Basin. The first, dating to between 1803 and 1809, was the work of William Jessop, Chief Engineer of the Bristol Dock Company.

It includes Junction Lock, the only intact lock from the original basin scheme which remains attached to the basin. The second major phase of work dates to the 1860s and 1870s under engineer Thomas Howard. Together, these structures form an integral part of the basin and tell the story of its later evolution.

Underfall Yard

As part of the review, Historic England assessed the designation of the historic structures at the Underfall Yard.

Following the fire at the Underfall Yard on 6 May 2023, the review of these designations has been paused. Historic England continues to provide conservation advice and technical support to the Underfall Yard Trust.

The buildings and structures at Underfall Yard remain protected through scheduling and listing.

The Cumberland Basin Bridges Scheme, comprising the 1962-1965 road network, Plimsoll Bridge and associated control tower Dockmaster’s Office and Former Ticket Office Transport Café were included in the review but did not met the criteria for listing.